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The Sound of Science - 'Learning from nature'


The Sound of Science - 'Learning from nature'

Welcome to The Sound of Science from WNIJ and NIU STEAM. It’s a weekly series explaining important STEM concepts. Today’s hosts are Jeremy Benson and Newt Likier.

Today, we’re going to be talking about things we can learn by observing animal behaviors.

From measuring the temperature, to determining water quality, there’s a lot we can learn about the world from studying animals.

Exactly. I was in my backyard last night, and there were some very noisy crickets chirping. You may have heard that you can tell the temperature by measuring cricket chirps. But is that actually true?

Like many answers in science, it depends! In 1897, a man named Amos Dolbear noticed that the speed of a cricket’s chirping changed depending on how warm or cold the weather was. After some careful observations, he came up with a fairly reliable way to calculate the approximate ambient temperature based on counting cricket chirps.

To try this for yourself, count how many chirps you hear in fourteen seconds and then add forty to get the temperature in Fahrenheit. Or if you want your answer in Celsius, count for eight seconds and then add five.

People call this relationship Dolbear’s law. Unfortunately, Dolbear didn’t record exactly what type of cricket he used for his observations, so we might not get the exact temperature using our local crickets, but we can still get remarkably close.

We can also use animals to help monitor water quality; in particular, clams.

Scientists in Warsaw Poland discovered that clams open their shells to eat when the water quality is good, but close back up in lower quality water. They position the clams near a button and use safe adhesive to attach a device that can press the button. When these clams detect the water quality dropping, they close their shells, which presses the button, setting off the alarm and alerting scientists that something isn’t right.

Good thing Poland isn’t being shellfish with what they’ve learned!

If there’s anything you want to learn about the world, submit your questions to niusteam@niu.edu

This has been the Sound of Science on WNIJ. Where you learn something new every day.

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